An interview is really just a conversation, one focused on your qualifications and the specific role. While the interviewers are determining if you’re a good fit for the role and organization, you are also evaluating them. Is this a role you want? Is this an organization you want to work for? Do you want to work with or for these individuals?
Invitation To Interview
Before you start preparing for a specific interview, you will have to decide if you want to accept the invitation to interview. If it is a position you are excited about, this might seem like an obvious decision. But if what if you’re not sure?
If it is a position that you’re less interested in, interviewing still has benefits. It is a good way to gain information and insights about the role and the organization; maybe it is something that you will want once you know more. Plus, you will gain real-world interview practice, buildng your skills and confidence before interviewing for roles you are more excited about.
On the other hand, you may need to decline. Even though you applied for the position, your situation and goals may have changed or you may have accepted another position. If you are no longer actively searching or your search has changed substantially, declining may be the right decision.
Whether you accept or decline, do so professionally. View sample responses to invitations to interview below.
Before the Interview
Preparation before any interview will help to boost your confidence and help you shine.
What To Say: Common Questions
Although you won’t know all of the questions you’ll be asked, you can prepare for commonly asked questions (see sample list below). Use Big Interview to record your responses, then watch them back for ways to improve. You don’t want to sound rehearsed though so don’t memorize your answers.
Prepare some concrete examples you can use in your responses using the STAR technique:
S = Situation you’re describing
T = Task you were performing
A = Action you took
R = Result or positive outcome
What To Say: Salary
Not every interview will include a question about salary or compensation, but you should be prepared to answer if asked.
If there is information in the posting and/or on the organization’s website, that may give you a possible range for what the starting compensation rate may be. Remember that while you can negotiate if you receive an offer, organizations often start new hires in the lower half of the range.
You want your answer to be feasible for you but also realistic for the role and the organization. Research average compensation for the area, the industry, and the type of role, as well as the cost of living in the area, including housing, transportation, food, and other essentials. Use sites like Salary.com, Glassdoor.com, or others to help with salary research.
What To Wear
In general, dressing more formally for the interview is best but what that means can vary depending on the industry, organization, and field. For example, business suits are more common in marketing or sales than in software programming. Research dress code and organization culture to get a sense of what will be expected.
What To Research
Conducting some research on the organization, the role, and the interviewers is a key part of preparing for an interview. This knowledge will help you provide relevant answers to questions, understand more about the opportunity, and identify what questions you want to ask.
- Posting: Refresh your memory for what they are looking for
- Website: Look for how they describe themselves and their work, any announcements, any information on company culture such as employee quotes or videos, bios or other information on the interviewers
- News search: Look for any recent news about the organization and the industry
- Social media: Get a sense of how they present the organization, how they engage in the field or industry, how they respond to other accounts
- LinkedIn and/or BU Connects: Look up the interviewers to get a sense of their career path, see if there are any BU alumni at the organization
Also, if you know anyone at the organization or who recently left, ask them what it is like to work there.
What To Ask
Usually you will have an opportunity to ask a few questions at the end of the interview. These questions should be informed by your research and help you determine if you are still interested in the organization or the role.
Which questions you ask are up to you (see sample list below), but there are a few things we recommend you stay away from.
- Compensation, Benefits: You’ll have an opportunity to ask about these later if you move forward in the process
- Public Information: Questions that you can easily answer with a little research, such as the organization’s mission, products, or services
Make sure you know what to do or where to go on the day of the interview.
For in-person interviews, check the travel route in advance. If you have time, test the route you are planning to take and adjust if needed.
For phone interviews, choose a calm and quiet location without distracting background noise and where you have a strong signal. Plan to make sure your phone is fully charged before the interview starts.
For video interviews, choose a location that will allow you to focus and the interviewers to focus on you. You want to be sitting upright at a desk or table, facing the light from a window or lamp, and with the camera-visible room tidy and professional. If you have time, do a test run with a friend or family member.
Day of the Interview
The morning of the interview (or the afternoon before), email your contact to confirm the time and location of the interview. For video interviews, make sure you can access the platform that will be used without an issue.
Make sure you have a notepad and pen for any notes. If in person, bring copies of your resume to share. If phone or video, have a copy of your resume for your own reference.
Plan to arrive (if in person) or be seated in your planned location (if phone or video) 10-15 minutes before the interview starts.
During the Interview
Relax and be confident in yourself, your qualifications, and your preparation. Smile and make eye contact, sit up with good posture, try not to fidget. Listen to the questions asked, jot down notes if needed, and answer as directly and fully as possible without rambling.
If you are asked a question that’s illegal (see list below) or inappropriate, the best response is to pause and calmly say something like “Is that job related?” Most often, the interviewer didn’t intend to ask an illegal or inappropriate question.
At the end of the interview, thank your interviewer(s) and reiterate your interest in the position. If in person, request the interviewer’s business card.
After the Interview
Thank-you notes are an important part of the interview process. They give you an opportunity to reiterate your interest in the position. We also recommend including 1-2 items that particularly impressed or intrigued you. This helps to underscore your interest and demonstrate that you were paying attention to what the interviewer(s) said.
Send your note(s) within 24 hours of each interview in the body of an email. If you had multiple interviewers, you can send notes to each person, one to the whole group, or a combination.
After an interview, you have a lot more information about the role and the organization. You may be more excited about the opportunity or might have learned something that makes you rethink your interest.
If you haven’t heard from the organization within a few weeks of your interview, you can send a follow up email to the hiring manager or the primary contact. Reiterate your interest and your hope to hear from them soon. It may not mean anything other than they are continuing the process amidst other responsibilities.
You may or may not hear if someone else was selected. Some organizations will inform all candidates when the position is filled; others will not. We recommend a maximum of 2 follow-up emails, at least a week apart. If there’s still no response, move on as the position may have been filled.
Types of Interviews
Interviews can vary depending on the stage in the process and other factors. You may not experience all of these types.
Typically, the first in the process and often a shorter interview (15-30 minutes) over the phone. It may be conducted by HR, the hiring manager, or a hiring committee.
Group of Candidates
More often used when there are multiple positions available. The interviewer(s) might want individual candidates to answer questions in turn or for the group to discuss a topic in a more open format.
Frequently conducted by the hiring manager or supervisor.
Involves multiple people interviewing the same candidate at the same time.
Often the last step in the process, the conversation is likely to focus on benefits, hiring requirements, organizational rules or guidelines, and the like.
You are given a situational problem that doesn’t have a right answer to solve so that the interviewer can see how you think through problems.
A series of interviews on the same day or block of time. Often some of these are panel interviews and some one-on-one. This format may also include a presentation or other demonstration of skills.
Respond to an Invitation To Interview
Accept an Interview Invitation
Thank you for your consideration of my application and the invitation to interview for the ___________ role at XYZ Company. I am available this Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., and I look forward to meeting with you to discuss this position in more detail.
Please let me know if I can provide any additional information prior to our meeting.
Decline an Interview Invitation
Thank you for contacting me regarding the open position at your company.
I have recently accepted an offer at another company [or other reason: have paused my job search, am searching for different roles] and am no longer available to interview. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.
Thank you, again, for your consideration of my application.
Before the Interview
Commonly Asked Questions
- Tell us about yourself
- What do you know about our organization and why are you interested in this position?
- What experience and skills do you bring to this position?
- What do you consider to be your strengths and areas for growth?
- Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership in school or work.
- Describe a time you had to work under stress and how you handled it.
- Tell me about a time when you demonstrated initiative in solving a problem. What was the result?
- Tell us about a time you worked as part of a team. What role did you play?
- Why did you choose this major/career path? What are your career goals?
- Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself that hasn’t yet been discussed?
Sample Questions To Ask
- What does training/onboarding look like for this role?
- What professional development opportunities are available?
- How would you describe the team culture/dynamics?
- What is the history of this position?
- What are the most immediate challenges of the position that need to be addressed?
- What do you enjoy most about working at ________?
- How will I be evaluated in my role?
- What are the next steps in the interview/hiring process?
During the Interview
Questions on the following topics are illegal in United States as they could potentially lead to employment discrimination.
- Marital status (Note: they can ask if you are authorized to work in the United States)
- Nationality (Note: they can ask if you’re authorized to work in the United States)
- Disability (Note: they can ask if you’d be able to perform certain specific job-related duties, such as lifting a certain amount of weight)
After the Interview
Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me today. It was such a pleasure to learn more about the team and position, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the organization and your team.
_________ seems like a wonderful place to work, especially based on your comments about __________[reference something your interviewer mentioned]. The organization’s mission and values resonate strongly with me, and I would be thrilled to bring my experience with _______ to help the team achieve its goals.
I look forward to hearing from you about the next steps in the hiring process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can provide additional information.